Wednesday, September 20 2006
"I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: 'I'm ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don't accept His claim to be God.' That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic--on a level with the man who says he is a poached egg--or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God: or else a madman or something worse. You can shut Him up for a fool, you can spit at Him and kill Him as a demon; or you can fall at His feet and call Him Lord and God. But let us not come with any patronising nonsense about His being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to." Mere Christianity
The first time I read this paragraph from Mere Christianity I was in a postage-stamp size room in a B&B in Donegal, Ireland. It was raining cats and dogs outside my window and I was buried under the bed-covers with a head cold. I was 19 years old and in the midst of a solo pilgrimage to the British Isles. I had brought along with me paperback copies of all the Lewis books I had not read to date. I was diligently visiting the many places where Lewis lived, worked, worshiped and vacationed. More importantly, I was searching for a personal faith that was intellectually credible. When I came to the end of Lewis's chapter on The Shocking Alternative I came to the conclusion that Christianity did indeed make sense.
Since that time I have heard a number of people question the solidity of Lewis's argument. Poached egg, Devil or Son of God, are these the only options? Or as Josh McDowell later re-phrased Lewis's argument--Liar, Lunatic or Lord--are these the only sensible ways of viewing Jesus? What about legend--could it not be that Jesus' supposed claims to divinity were legendary? Lewis, as astute literary critic, rejected the Gospels as legend--they were written too close to the historical event of Jesus' life. There wasn't sufficient time between event and Gospel for legend to develop.
But did Jesus really think of himself as divine? That is the sticking point for many scholars. Personally my mind resonates with what N. T. Wright, one of the foremost New Testament scholars in the world today, has written on this question.
Poached egg, Devil or Son of God? Liar, lunatic, legend or Lord? Each one of us must answer these questions for ourselves. Jesus himself asks us for our response: "But what about you? Who do you say I am?" (Matthew 16:15) Personally, I gave my answer twenty-four years ago in a little room on the west coast of Ireland . . . and I haven't changed my mind since. I still pray to Jesus every day, just as Christians have done for centuries. . . .
"I pray you, noble Jesu, that as you have graciously granted me joyfully to imbibe the words of Your knowledge, so You will also of Your bounty grant me to come at length to Yourself, the Fount of all wisdom, and to dwell in your presence forever." The Venerable Bede 673-735